Activation Energies of Plasmonic Catalysts

Youngsoo Kim, Daniel Dumett Torres, Prashant K. Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The activation energy of a catalytic reaction serves not only as a metric of the efficacy of a catalyst but also as a potential indicator of mechanistic differences between the catalytic and noncatalytic reaction. However, activation energies are quite underutilized in the field of photocatalysis. We characterize in detail the effect of visible light excitation on the activation enthalpy of an electron transfer reaction photocatalyzed by plasmonic Au nanoparticles. We find that in the presence of visible light photoexcitation, the activation enthalpy of the Au nanoparticle-catalyzed electron transfer reaction is significantly reduced. The reduction in the activation enthalpy depends on the excitation wavelength, the incident laser power, and the strength of a hole scavenger. On the basis of these results, we argue that the activation enthalpy reduction is directly related to the photoelectrochemical potential built-up on the Au nanoparticle under steady-state light excitation, analogous to electrochemical activation. Under optimum light excitation conditions, a potential as high as 240 mV is measured. The findings constitute more precise insights into the mechanistic role and energetic contribution of plasmonic excitation to chemical reactions catalyzed by transition metal nanoparticles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3399-3407
Number of pages9
JournalNano letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 11 2016


  • Artificial photosynthesis
  • catalysis
  • electron transfer
  • localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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